IDM kids think of Chocolate Industries as one of glitch-hop's first homes, indie hip-hop heads rate it for bridging the styles between Warp and Def Jux and crate diggers know it as the label that recently reissued McNeal & Niles' 1979 pearl, Thrust. But ask CI founder Seven for the parameters of his label and he'll come up one buzz phrase short. "I think at one point people were able to link what was on the label aesthetically," he says. "But for me now, I guess it's all linked by emotion."
Glitch-hop, hip-hop, digital soul, dusty groove–over the course of Chocolate's six-plus years, Seven's touched 'em all. Spun out of Miami imprint Schematic Records in 1998 and relocated to Chicago late the following year, Chocolate insinuated itself into backpacks everywhere with instrumental electronic music from outfits like East Flatbush Project and Push Button Objects and the digitally contoured hip-hop of Chicago rhymesayer Diverse and the Urban Renewal Program series.
But for every straight-up electronic or hip-hop record in its discography, there's another that's more difficult to categorize, like Caural's organic, post-rocky clatter, Via Tania's refracted nu-soul or Ghislain Poirier's off-kilter, syncopated cut-up act. In the course of cataloguing Seven's passions, sometimes the label even taps into something bigger. "The Neptunes' production now is kinda no different than what we were doing back [in 2001]," he observes. "It's just more geared towards the commercial [market]. That said, there are a lot of people that were making an identical kind of music in different parts of the country that we never knew about. Three Six Mafia was doing shit in '94 that Prefuse is doing now!"
With a new label manager affording him the opportunity to focus solely on the creative side of the business, Seven is working on a project with London's Lady Sovereign and prepping new releases from Diverse, Poirer, Tania, Scott Herren (as Piano Overlord) and Cannibal Ox album Vast Aire. Also in the works, alongside fellow Chicagoan Dante Carfagna, is Personal Space, a collection of black electronic music from the '60s and '70s. "It's urban archeology," he says. "No one even knows about it. Some of it sounds like Aphex Twin could've made it, some of it sounds like Andre 3000."